- Making life difficult for product pirates
Marking solutions from Koenig & Bauer Coding for the electrical and electronics industry
Virtually no area of the electrical and electronics industry is unaffected by it: Product pirates unashamedly make reproductions of high-quality products and, in the worst cases, damage the reputation of the trademark owner with their inferior articles. Marking specialist Koenig & Bauer Coding offers marking solutions featuring coded imprints to make it easier to identify counterfeit products and guarantee the traceability of the original products.
There is hardly a single manufacturer in the electrical and electronics industry these days that has been left untouched by product piracy. That the product is a replica or even a forgery is hard to see from the product itself. The quality of switches, plug-in connectors, sets of cables, capacitors or electronic components is difficult to discern at first glance.
One means of identifying replica or counterfeit products quickly is to use effective product markings with the date of manufacture, batch number and other data in coded form. At incoming goods inspections it is easier to differentiate parts from counterfeits if they have this type of detailed marking.
A further advantage of product marking is traceability. This means that in the event of a production fault it is easier to identify and sort out the faulty parts. The question however is, which marking system is suitable for which application? To answer this question, Oliver Volland, CEO at Koenig & Bauer Coding, is just the person to talk to. The company has enjoyed a reputation in the market for decades as a competent supplier of marking solutions.
"As in all industries, there is also a range of marking technologies for applications in the electrical and electronics industry with specific strengths to offer for specific tasks," explains Oliver Volland, and emphasizes: "The preferred solution is inkjet systems since they deliver good marking results especially when it comes to the varying compositions of plastics that are often involved. For applications with simple markings, hot stamping units can be the solution. Laser systems are more dependent on the compound than inkjets and hot stamping units." A further advantage is offered by inkjet printers capable of applying small lettering with excellent legibility in what is generally only limited space available for marking.
"The alphaJET pico is a high-quality inkjet printer (CIJ) in our range of products which is capable of producing a 5-line printed image in a consistent quality even on uneven or structured surfaces," explains Oliver Volland. With its miniscule nozzle diameter of just 42 micrometers, the alphaJET pico delivers outstanding printing results with a small, fine and clear line structure. This is key to trouble-free identification of codes such as DMC, 2D and DotCode using standard scanners. The device also scores high marks for an excellent print image when it comes to the marking of ultra-thin cables with cross-sections as little as 0.35 mm2.
Using interfaces such as Ethernet, RS232 and USB the printer can be integrated seamlessly in the line and be used together with camera systems for checking the print quality. The device achieves speeds of up to 695 m/min depending on the checkbox and the legibility check.
In addition to the alphaJET pico, Koenig & Bauer Coding also offers a variety of other inkjet marking systems so that precisely the right solution is available for practically every conceivable application. The devices can be used for marking a wide spectrum of products and components in the electrical and electronics industry. In the plug-in connector segment this includes all types of connecting and installation terminals. They are also used for marking switches, keys, fuses and printed circuit boards.
The ink makes all the difference
"Apart from the printer it is the ink that is a crucial factor in achieving effective results for the given marking task. Attention must be given to the adhesion of the ink to the material, the structure of the surface, and the drying and printing speed," says Oliver Volland. The alphaJET's ink system is able to use not just standard inks such as MEK, ethanol-acetone and ethanol but pigmented and PVC inks as well. For high-contrast printing, Koenig & Bauer Coding has developed special pigment inks. The light blue pigment ink, for example, is clearly distinguishable on a dark and light background. With white pigment ink the alphaJET is able to apply clear markings even to dark surfaces.
With UV-readable inks it is possible, for example, to apply inconspicuous markings which, together with coded information, provide proof of authenticity. The use of integrated solvent recovery systems ensures that the ink systems are economical in terms of consumption.
The right technology for every marking task
For the marking of cables, flexible tubing and cable ducts, not only are printers from the alphaJET series suitable but hot stamping units and laser systems as well. Hot stamping units are the preferred solution for marking cables, because they deliver good marking results on different types of plastic. One of the advantages of laser marking units is that no consumables such as ink are involved, meaning that operating costs are reasonably low. For permanent product marking they score highly in terms of high-definition texts, logos and graphics which can be applied either at a standstill or in motion.
Koenig & Bauer Coding's large selection of laser technologies come under the laserSYSTEM segment in its product range. For the laser marking of metallic surfaces, for example, YAG and fiber laser are two suitable solutions. A CO2 laser is capable of marking and cutting plastics.
Software rounds off the marking solution
In addition to a capacity for integration in the line, software solutions for the preparation of the job and the controllers for the units are also essential for the successful deployment of marking systems. Koenig & Bauer Coding's portfolio also includes software for a broad spectrum of marking systems. Code-M, for example, is a modular package of software solutions for the inkjet printers in the alphaJET (CIJ) and betaJET (TIJ) series. Alongside classical line monitoring and the handling of the units via PC, code-M also supports database connections, the use of Windows printer drivers and the control of an integrated camera solution for checking the quality of the marking. With a connection to an ERP system such as SAP, marking systems can be seamlessly integrated in a company's merchandise and production information system.
The code-M sector series features a range of solutions for specific industries. In the electrical sector a software module for the cable market is available. With code-M sector it is possible, for example, for the marking unit's controller to send a cutting signal to the line after completion of printing, without the need for any modifications to the construction of the printer. The software also supports automatic meter/feet marking. For laser systemsKoenig & Bauer Coding offers programs such as Scanlinux, MARCA LITE and MARCA Full Graphics. Using the integrated 3-D function in MARCA Full Graphics the laser printer is also capable of processing curved surfaces such as cable ducts or round plug-in connectors without any distortion. Assistance with setting up is provided by a pilot laser which shows a preview image of the intended printing positions on the product.
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